‘Absolute Breakdown of Law and Order': Black Community Leaders Criticize Response to Large Party

The group says Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh failed to react in a timely fashion to the event, which they said drew thousands over the weekend

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The Boston Black COVID-19 Coalition is expressing outrage about a large, two-day party held last weekend in the city's Dorchester neighborhood, saying Gov. Charlie Baker, Mayor Marty Walsh and other politicians have said and done nothing about what could wind up being the state's next "super spreader" event.

The group, consisting of leaders in the Black community, held a press conference Thursday to discuss the party held on Aug. 28 and Aug. 29, which they said was attended by several thousand people. They demanded action including testing and tracing of those who attended and steps to prevent a repeat over Labor Day weekend.

The group is demanding swift action after several thousand people took part in a two-day party in the city’s Dorchester neighborhood

The coalition said party revelers set up DJ tables and flatbed trucks on Talbot Avenue and drank alcohol, danced and smoked marijuana openly in the streets.

“I saw a gathering near Franklin Park Friday night of several hundred persons and was especially concerned that there seemed no concern by [Boston police] to break up the event,” long time resident and coalition member Louis Elisa said in a statement. "I thought there was a 50 person limit that was supposed to be enforced."

Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, another member of the coalition, said elected officials and police had been alerted days before that the event was happening, but did nothing.

"By Saturday night, live videos on social media clearly showed thousands of people partying," Wilkerson said. "Though many had masks around their necks, shockingly few were wearing the masks. I waited all day Sunday for the news reports and then a press conference by Gov. Baker, Mayor Walsh, and other elected officials on Monday. It never happened! Now that we hear that there’s another party being planned for the weekend, we’re sounding the alarm.”

Wilkerson said organizers of the Carribean Carnival -- which was supposed to be held over the weekend but had been canceled due to the pandemic -- reached out to police and the city to warn them that a party, not affiliated with the carnival, was being planned.

During a video conference call with the media Thursday, Wilkerson added the coalition was not asking for police to be "sicced on the community."

"The reality is that event got large last week, there's no way, without major, major harm, potential for physical harm and danger, they were going to break it up. But they should never have let it happen in the first place. Ever hear of barricades?"

At-large City Councilor Julia Mejia said during the conference call that she was not aware of the size of the party and was "disheartened" by the lack of response by authorities. She added that social gatherings were taking place on Talbot Avenue and American Legion Parkway "every weekend."

Baker said during a coronavirus-focused press conference Thursday that it was his understanding that state and local police broke the event up.

“But they did it by going to the event, engaging with the people who were there and basically working to come up with an answer that would translate into people leaving peacefully, and it took a while," he said. "Maybe it took too long and maybe people are unhappy about that.”

Wilkerson said police present at the event were spit on and "getting harassed."

She said she saw Massachusetts State Police "sitting right in front of Franklin Park" and they didn't move until they had to respond to a shooting incident on Blue Hill Avenue.

Baker "has no idea" about what happened, she said. "He's not said a word about it until today, because we held a press conference."

Walsh's office did not immediately response to a request for comment.

Members of the group said the lack of response was in stark contrast to events held in communities like Chatham and Cohasset that drew sharp rebukes from Baker and wondered if that is because many of those attending the Dorchester party were Black or Latino.

"Thousands of residents in the City of Boston are at serious risk and nothing has been done to address this," coalition member Jacqui Lindsay said. "We must insist on action!"

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